I wrote this article for a website as part of my frustration with the emergence of cell phones in every nook and cranny of society. Now, they’re everywhere and attached to everyone. Since then, they have also come under intense scrutiny by lawmakers linking them to unsafe driving. For years, I refused to get a cell phone. I refused to become part of the drones walking around in their own little bubbles. Among the irritating traits people have developed these days are talking on their cell phones while being served by service people in stores, talking on their cell phones while driving, screaming on their cell phones in public amidst relative quiet and texting while pushing a shopping cart.
The following article was written with the angle of the emergence of cell phones for everyone (including children) and their intrusion into everyday life.
The Sanctity of Silence and the Cacophony of Cell Phones
Kids are the last untapped market
Susan McMillan was enjoying her hike up a mountain in Banff National Park on a summer day in August. She was listening to the footsteps of fellow hikers, the wind in the trees and the hush of the solitude, when she heard a cell phone ring nearby.
“I couldn’t believe it,” McMillan said. “I go hiking in Banff to escape that kind of intrusion. And here is this girl getting a call on her cell phone from someone to say what kind of pasta sauce she bought at Safeway or something. In Banff. It’s ridiculous.”
McMillan’s encounter with the cell phone in even the most remote location is an example of our technology-reliant culture and how difficult it has become to escape cell phones in public places.
Cell phones are relatively inexpensive and, like automobiles, give people a sense of personal power, freedom and mobility. The majority of users state “convenience” as to why they have cell phones, or especially after 9/11, to make them feel “safer.” Today, it is more common to see someone with a cell phone than without one.
However, there is still one place on earth where you will not hear a cell phone’s ring tone of the latest hit by Lady Gaga – on an airplane and, if airline passengers have their way, you never will.
SKYTRAX, a company that surveys passengers for the airline and airport industry, recently released a survey that said 89.1% of airline passengers oppose the idea of allowing cell phone usage on flights. 1.
As part of the survey, one respondent replied, “…the last bastion of peace and quiet and the ability to read uninterrupted would be lost forever in favor of the banal crap that people seem intent on boring one another with at their own expense.” 2.
One solution to deter people from having loud and bothersome cell phone conversations in public comes from IDEO, the same company that invented the computer mouse and the toothpaste squeeze tube. One of its cell phone prototypes shocks the caller if they talk too loudly. 3.
Shocking cell phone users may sound appealing to some people, but the parents of the next wave of cell phone users may object to this. Cell phone and toy manufacturers are now marketing cell phones to the 12 and under audience.
Mattel has introduced a Barbie cell phone for girls 8 to 14. Hasbro has a walkie-talkie unit called ChatNow that looks and feels like a cell phone. Wireless firm Enfora has a similar unit called TicTalk for children 6 and older. In Canada, Rogers is selling Firefly, a five button speed dial phone for “mobile kids”, programmed and controlled by the parents.
“This isn’t a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo of the Institute of the Future. “This is a dog leash. This is a sucker purchase for every paranoid parent. All it’s going to do is cause the kids to want a real cell phone that much earlier…” 4.
The security of their children and fear of what may happen to them if parents don’t know their whereabouts, are major selling points to parents. Parent Eric Webber says he is about to buy his 11-year-old son Jake a cell phone. “He’s playing the safety and security card on me, saying, ‘Wouldn’t you feel safer if I had it?’”, Webber says.
Service providers are establishing brand loyalty early, setting the stage for future sales. Parents are creating lifelong cell phone customers, say experts. “It won’t be long before no self-respecting kindergartner is going to start school without a cell phone,” says Paul Saffo.
The solitude of the back country awaits these burgeoning cell phone users.
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